Canberra's major universities are unlikely to conduct a pilot program to return international students to the territory this year as the institutions attempt to carry on with campus life amid coronavirus restrictions.
Trade Minister Simon Birmingham said on Sunday that South Australia would be the first state permitted to carry out a pilot program to return 300 international students in September with strict quarantine procedures in place.
A similar plan developed by the University of Canberra and the Australian National University was paused indefinitely in July as the number of COVID-19 cases in Victoria began to rise and states moved to close their borders.
In a joint statement from both universities, a spokesperson said the institutions were continuing to work with the ACT government on returning all interstate and overseas student to Canberra when the time was right.
"It is unlikely that our international pilot will be able to happen this year but we will keep working to support our students' educational experience," the spokesperson said.
"We are doing all we can in planning for a safe passage for our international students as soon as possible in 2021."
Under the South Australian pilot, south-east Asian students will fly from Singapore to Adelaide where they will undergo supervised hotel quarantine paid for by the universities.
It comes as the University of Canberra was finally able to conduct an Investiture ceremony to formally welcome vice-chancellor and president Professor Paddy Nixon.
Professor Nixon, who is the university's sixth vice-chancellor and president, started his five-year term on April 6.
He was previously vice-chancellor and president at Ulster University in Northern Ireland and held the role of deputy vice-chancellor of research at the University of Tasmania from 2011 and 2015.
Only a small number of people were able to attend the ceremony on Monday due to physical-distancing requirements. It was broadcast online for public viewing.
"I think it's really critical to demonstrate to the staff that the university is continuing to operate, continuing to be a university and continuing to recognise those key points in the calendar," Professor Nixon said.
The vice-chancellor said his top priorities were ensuring the stability and sustainability of the institution during the COVID-19 pandemic and the changes caused by the government's Job-ready Graduates package reforms.
In the medium term, Professor Nixon said his priority was to align the university with the needs of the ACT.
"We are the ACT's university so we're going to try and work out how we best serve this place, and how we collaborate with this place to really have genuinely, not just national, but international impact," he said.
While he said it was not an ideal time to start as a leader of a university, staff had shown resilience during a tumultuous time.
The university sector was one of the hardest-hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.
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